December 22nd 2002
Bird Count finds 93 Species
RockBoc, the Island (Rock) wing of the Bird Observers Club of Australia, has just completed a fabulously successful Summer Challenge Count by exceeding the winter count results. The winter count gave us 91 different species and 989 birds in total (counted) on the Rock. The summer count, on the first weekend of December, has revealed a staggering 93 species and 1500 + birds in total.
The migratory wading birds, protected under the international RAMSAR Treaty, have contributed significantly to the increased numbers of birds on the Rock - attracted particularly to the mudflats at Cockle, Bolger and Young Bays. The Picnic and Geoffrey Bay reef flats are also very attractive to terns, egrets and herons, common in tropical locales. The spring/summer season is also prime nesting time for the Island's raptor regulars, the white-bellied sea eagles, ospreys, brahminy kites and whistling kites. Also seen were the wedge-tail eagles (3), kestrels and brown goshawk - the latter being a formidable if stealthy predator not easily spotted.
The ground nesting and hollow nesting birds were also well represented and the ever popular rainbow lorikeet, another hollow nester, has been seen nesting in remaining poplar gums in Picnic, Nelly, Arcadia, Bolger and Horseshoe Bays. Red winged parrots, seen only rarely on the Rock are nesting in the poplar gum forest at the end of Kelly Street sharing their accommodation with the 13 Galahs on the Island.
The ground and mound nesting birds: bush stone curlews; orange footed scrub fowl; pheasant coucal; masked lapwing; rainbow bee eater; beach stone curlew; red capped plover and noisy pitta (we should be so lucky as to see one!) - have been recorded in breeding mode. Unfortunately the bush curlews have been particularly unsuccessful, with many losing either their eggs or newly hatched young to marauding dogs, cats and cars before the natural predators can get to them.
The plovers (masked lapwings) have also been debilitated by this same triumvirate. Our plovers who sat for 20+ days in the baking sun and hatched 2 chicks lost both of them in one week to cats and cars. The rainbow bee eaters - those beautiful green jewelled birds who nest in creek banks or mounds of dirt have fared little better. The local cats and bobcats have destroyed either the parent birds or the entire nest mound with very few young being hatched. Even the Nelly Bay Bird Habitat, home to extensive orange footed scrub fowl mounds, has been subject to predations from unleashed dogs. No young birds have been recorded from this site in two years.
Exciting sightings included a lesser golden plover (a fancy name for a very beautiful small golden bird from Siberia) on the Geoffrey Bay Reef flats; a common tern on the prow of the Cockle Bay wreck; 3 white winged trillers in Arcadia; 2 emerald doves and a rose-crowned fruit dove at Wally & Myra's Bed & Breakfast in Horseshoe Bay; a single beach stone curlew and a restless flycatcher at the Hoopers' West Point abode and a sooty oyster catcher, sighted by Steve Rowland's MI Sea Kayak Tours.
As for 2001, the Rock had a number of unique sightings compared with the mainland. The forest kingfishers, beach stone curlew, restless flycatcher, sooty oystercatcher and emerald and rose-crowned fruit doves are stand outs. Forest kingfishers appear to be residing soley on the Island at present with none recently spotted in Townsville by BOCA counters. An exciting but unconfirmed sighting of a small finch like bird with a completely red head, at Radical Bay, set tongues a wagging. While there was no positive ID it wasn't anything usually seen on the Island. If you're on the way to Radical keep your eyes open!
If you'd like to find out more about RockBoc call me on 47 581 159.
by Christine Corbett